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Once There Was a War

3.82  ·  Rating Details ·  1,270 Ratings  ·  116 Reviews
Steinbeck's dispatches filed from the front lines during World War II vividly evoke the human side of the war.
Hardcover, 1st Edition, 233 pages
Published 1958 by Viking Press (first published 1943)
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Feb 08, 2013 Kim rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, kindle

When the US entered World War II, Steinbeck had been involved in writing anti-fascist propaganda for some time. He was keen to secure a commission as an intelligence officer in the armed forces, but this didn't eventuate. Steinbeck then spent time trying to get himself appointed as a war correspondent. In April 1943, the New York Herald Tribune offered to hire him if he could obtain the necessary security clearances. Doing so was not as easy as it should have been, as some people interviewed by
Chris Dietzel
Jan 26, 2016 Chris Dietzel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The value in this book comes from gaining insight into Steinbeck's experiences as a war journalist. Anyone looking for a history lesson or additional details on WWII will be greatly disappointed. Every other nonfiction book I've read on similar topics will be more useful for such readers. Instead, Steinbeck writes about the mundane and the whimsical and offers a very vanilla perspective on the events he covered. For fans of the author, however, this is a fascinating look at how starkly different ...more
Jan 23, 2015 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A collection of columns Steinbeck wrote from various places where he was “embedded” (as we call it now) with the troops during World War II. Written on a more personal level and with a different style than many columnists of the day who focused on individuals, Steinbeck’s book describes settings to make the reader feel like they are there. This makes the book unique, because there aren’t many dramatic stories, and it’s more about the day-to-day existence where sudden death can come at a moment’s ...more
A vivid and insightful look into the realities of wartime. While Steinbeck's particular genius was perhaps better suited to novels like Cannery Row and Tortilla Flat, he makes a fine job of war journalism.

Favourite quote:

There is a quality in the people of Dover that may well be the key to the coming German disaster. They are incorrigibly, incorruptibly unimpressed. The German, with his uniform and his pageantry and his threats and plans, does not impress these people at all. The Dover man has
Zeynab Babaxani
Mar 01, 2016 Zeynab Babaxani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
نمیتونم توصیف کنم که با این کتاب چه احساساتی رو تجربه کردم
جان اشتاین بک در این کتاب وقایع رو یک جوری میبنه و توصیف میکنه که هر کسی قادر به درک اون منظر و دیدگاه نیست
جوری که انسانهایی که زندگی رو میفهمند این منظرگاه رو تجربه کردن فقط
Brian Willis
Aug 03, 2015 Brian Willis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My grandfather fought in two of the same theatres featured in this book of first hand journalism by John Steinbeck. As a child, when I began to realize what World War II was and that my grandfather had played a role in it (awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for that matter), I sincerely asked him to share his experience of what it was like. I knew even then that, not only did I want a primary source account of what this climactic event of the 20th century was like, but I also knew that one d ...more
This is a compendium of Steinbeck's dispatches for publication in American newspapers, originally published in 1958. As one might expect, it is not the standard war journalism which was churned out by nationally-known war correspondents. Instead, the focus is on the everyday grind, fears and superstitions among the rank-and-file as well as citizens caught up in the battle (even though he could not give specifics of places or individuals). Hence it took many years before the public knew that Doug ...more
Chris Blocker
Steinbeck for Steinbeck's sake. Nothing particularly brilliant or memorable here, but these essays are full of that signature Steinbeck voice. Though I've read the majority of Steinbeck's writing, it wasn't until reading Once There Was a War that I saw in Steinbeck's lighthearted writing a comparison to Twain's charm and anecdotal style.

Written originally as war correspondence to be published in newspapers, these vignettes of WWII were later collected in this volume. Certainly some of Steinbeck'
Joseph Raffetto
Dec 29, 2015 Joseph Raffetto rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: essays
Steinbeck’s brilliant reporting brings alive the day-to-day lives of the troops and civilians on the ground during World War II.
Chad Manske
Feb 25, 2015 Chad Manske rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Though John Steinbeck had already achieved great fame from writing the epic Grapes of Wrath, his desire to enter military service was great. His request was denied due to his age yet his desire remained. Finally, his request to embed with various fighting units was granted and in 1943 he was able to have his opportunities. News outlets and their correspondents, however, chaffed at the thought of Steinbeck moving into their turf, thinking his work would overshadow theirs, however, that is not at ...more
Jul 02, 2013 Brett rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This collection of Steinbeck columns from his time as a war correspondent reveals contemporary views of the soldier's life at war. The book was published many years after the war, but the columns were all written during the war, and because they were written as it happened, there's a certain authenticity that can't be captured in historical writings. Although I'm sure Steinbeck took literary license with a few of the columns--particularly those dealing with an enlisted soldier who somehow tricks ...more
I found Steinbeck's introduction to this book to be very moving, filled with melancholy, nostalgia, and some regret for those who were lost in the war. However, the book itself is a little disappointing. I'm left with the sense that he was holding back. Each piece seems to be quickly written, maybe 'jotted down' would be a better description. This is most likely the result of having to write under newspaper deadline but it could also be the point of view he used, he never refers to himself in an ...more
Dec 06, 2012 Christie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: world-war-ii, memoir
Wow! Steinbeck is amazing. This is a compilation of his work as a war correspondent during WWII. But, in contrast to what most correspondents were reporting, Steinbeck conveyed the emotions and life-changing experiences of the people who lived the war, soldiers and civilians alike. His words draw you in and take you to the front lines as seen through those he met while in London, Africa and Italy. It is Steinbeck's ability to capture the essence of war through his brilliant style of writing that ...more
Nov 26, 2008 Frank rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good read.

But really, the introduction is the best thing about it. An older, more accomplished writer looking back and commenting about the process of covering a war as a journalist during "war time." Much different than looking at the war in retrospect.

There are a few standout chapters, but I don't think Steinbeck was well suited to this type of writing. He struggles to add some levity at times (and he is a great comic writer) and in general seems to have a hard time finding his voice. Ironi
Nov 01, 2014 Sean rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is a collection of Steinbeck writing from his days as a WWII reporter.

It conveys the period sense of nationalism quite well. I really enjoyed the stories of average Americans encountering Europe for the first time. The slight superstition of war times and soldiers. He does a good job telling a handful of personal stories.

The writing in the back, perhaps as expected, uses more mainstream language than he might otherwise right. Less of the classic Steinbeck descriptions and more of narrat
William Mooney
Mar 23, 2013 William Mooney rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
The best part of Steinbeck's reporting on World War Two was the variety of stories he covered. He did not simply report on whether a battle was won or lost. Instead, he focused on individual experiences, ranging from the rituals and superstitions of bomber squads, women in the British service, English civilians response after a German raid, Italian civilians during their surrender and more. Through Steinbeck's writing you get an excellent feeling of what it was like to be around Europe during th ...more
Sep 27, 2016 Laforgue rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Çok güzel bir kitap. İnsan bitmesin istiyor. Özellikle Mulligan müthiş. Aslında ne güzel bir roman kahramanı olurmuş Mulligan'dan.
Dec 21, 2013 Ola rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Somehow I expected more of a Catch-22 atmosphere. But Steinbeck's war isn't that much about fighting. It's even at times quite romantic. We read a lot about the background events and about the soldiers' activities when they're not in action. Most of the time they spend waiting for anything to happen. There's no blood, very little shooting and almost no killed people. It's more about the sweat, dirt, discomfort and dullness of war.

This book will not change my life in any way, I will probably forg
May 20, 2013 Camille rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a collection of 800-1,000 word essays Steinbeck wrote for the New York Tribune while on assignment as a war correspondent. These essays provide a unique insight of WW2 through the eyes of ordinary soldiers and civilians. From London to Algiers, Steinbeck give us a glimpse into the mundane details of war from how embarkment on large military vessels is accomplished to the disinfected water that the soldiers were forced to drink in Africa. I appreciated the details and perspective he ...more
Ahmet Kürşat
Jun 23, 2016 Ahmet Kürşat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Steinbeck'in 1943 yılında II. Dünya Savaşı'nın en hareketli günlerinde savaş muhabiri olarak yazdığı notlardan oluşan bu kitap, Amerikan bir donanma gemisinin sırasıyla İngiltere, Cezayir ve İtalya kıyılarındaki hikayesini anlatıyor. Savaşın içine bir asker gibi giren Steinbeck, sıradan bir askerin psikolojisini en ince ayrıntılarına kadar gözler önüne seriyor. Bu kitapta kahramanların değil ailesinden binlerce mil uzakta olan; birçok meslekten gelen kimisi çiftçi, kimisi marangoz, kimisi öğretm ...more
Feb 28, 2014 Scott rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is the second or third time I've read this. The quality of the articles is a bit mixed, but overall it's an interesting, sometimes poignant, occasionally suspenseful glimpse at a short part of WWII. I would love it if more of the book were like the last ten pages, but it is an enjoyable read about an interesting time, with angles you don't often read about.
Mateo .EV
Oct 11, 2015 Mateo .EV rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book “Once There Was a War” by John Steinback explained the life and emotions of a U.S. solider during World War 2. The book showed the horror, happiness, sadness, and anger of the reporter, John Steinback, and average U.S. soldiers. Steinback shows us in the beginning how in ancient Greece, there are wars every 20 years so each generation can see how it is like and in this case it was with world war 1 and 2. In the middle in the chapter “The Cottage That Wasn’t There” talks about how the sa ...more
Apr 03, 2015 Jon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-2015
After reading my first Steinbeck over 23 years ago, I knew I had found an author that resonated with something deep inside me. Over the years I've gone back and re-read quite a few, however since 2007, I've parsed out the last of his screen plays and non-fiction collections. I even squeezed in a trip to the Steinbeck Museum in Salinas (meh). "Once There Was a War" represents the very last, un-read edition on my list and it did not disappoint.
This collection of WWII reporting does what so many ot
Mar 21, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone interested in the period
Recommended to David by: Browsing the shelves
Audio book for road trip with my wife. 6 discs, 7.25 hours. Different ISBN # but think it's the same things. Good introduction. Good reader.

One of my favorite things -- contemporary accounts by talented and perceptive writers. Very entertaining writing and viewpoints covering shipping out to England in 1943, time in England, time in North Africa, action in Sicily/Italy. Steinbeck wrote human-interest material, not straight news. Thus it's just as interesting today (to me, at lease) as it was at
Jun 26, 2014 Wheeler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
John Steinbeck sends dispatches from World War II back to the denizens of the States.
As he writes in his introduction, he was not competing with the other war correspondents. He was not reporting on the news. He was sending his own brand of musings, of stories from the war, feature stories and news-features in his own style.
Thoroughly entertaining, with something to say about every way, "Once There Was a War" is great read.
My personal favorite dispatch is about Big Train Mulligan, a private who
Sep 08, 2016 CP rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I discovered this book by accident, but what a find.

Unlike so many retrospectives on WW2 Steinbeck talks from the front line.

There's nothing about strategy or the big picture in the European theatre here.

It's about what it was like to be on the ground. The fears, hopes and reality of war for so many.

Steinbeck once again demonstrates he has a gift for capturing the everyday and mundane, and communicating it simply and eloquently to the reader.

This book was a real find- can't recommend highly enou
Claudia  Ciardi
Jul 30, 2011 Claudia Ciardi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Once there was…Es war einmal…C’era una volta una guerra, che suona più o meno come “c’era una volta un califfo per un un’ora”. Il titolo è volutamente provocatorio. John Steinbeck, scrittore americano versatile e fecondo, si è cimentato con un evento drammatico, la guerra, vissuta in prima persona, in quanto inviato al fronte. Da questa esperienza sono scaturiti una serie di “pezzi”, spesso scritti nei tempi impossibili richiesti dai giornali e in situazioni affatto comode, il cui contenuto non ...more
Artur Coelho
Dec 18, 2011 Artur Coelho rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
O que nos agarra neste livro que colige crónicas escritas por Steinbeck enquanto correspondente de guerra na Europa devastada pela II Guerra Mundial é o seu carácter profundamente humano. As palavras não olham para os grandiosos movimentos geopolíticos, para as tácticas militares, para as glórias do material bélico, para o heroísmo do soldado. A sensibilidade humanista e social deste escritor leva-o a olhar para os pequenos pormenores, os momentos simples, registando curtos minutos na vida dos c ...more
Phillip Edwards
Apr 14, 2009 Phillip Edwards rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Once There Was A War is a collection of Steinbeck's daily reports for the New York Herald Tribune from June 20th, to December 13th, 1943. He travels with American troops to England, to Africa, and then witnesses the capture of the Italian island of Ventotene (a German radar station) by "five men in a whaleboat."

Steinbeck's writing has a mesmerising quality that makes you feel you really are there, seeing through his eyes. In his first few reports he describes life onboard a troopship heading fo
Dec 16, 2010 Tomas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War. "Murderous nonsense", as described by John Steinbeck in his novel "Once There Was A War", War is a screw up of humanity. Steinbeck conveys his distaste for war, stating in the introduction his views on war and his experience through it. He was an American war correspondent during WWII, and his book is a collection of his articles. Each article has its own plot, its own story, its own point to it. Although one thing stands out among his work, and that is the idea that war isn't so great, it ...more
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John Steinbeck III was an American writer. He wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Grapes of Wrath, published in 1939 and the novella Of Mice and Men, published in 1937. In all, he wrote twenty-five books, including sixteen novels, six non-fiction books and several collections of short stories.

In 1962 Steinbeck received the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley
More about John Steinbeck...

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